09/04/06

Cracking Corn

Harvest time means a bounty of fresh, sweet corn. One of the most versatile and widely used crops in the world, corn can still be a mystery when it comes to finding some that actually does taste fresh and sweet. So lend us an ear as we peel back the husks and reveal the secrets of corn.

How to Choose
Freshness is everything! Within 24 hours of being picked, almost 50% of the sugars in sweet corn have been converted to starch. Keeping corn cold is the best way to slow down the sugar to starch conversion, so avoid corn that is piled high in unrefrigerated bins. At the grocery store, or better yet, the farmers’ market, look for refrigerated or iced corn with husks that are moist, bright green, and tight. Be sure to pull back the husks slightly and check for plump kernels that release a cloudy liquid when pressed with your fingernail. If the corn is overripe, the kernels will be tough and doughy.

Storage
Plain and simple, sweet corn is best eaten the same day it is purchased. If you must buy ahead, parboil the corn for a minute or two in unsalted water (salt toughens corn), then refrigerate for up to three days before finishing the cooking process.

Types of Corn
Flint corn, also known as Indian corn, comes in a wide range of colors from white to red and has a hard outer shell and firm kernels. Popcorn is a type of flint corn. When it’s heated, the moisture inside turns to steam and the pressure created causes the popcorn to explode, turning the fluffy, white starch inside out.

Flour corn is primarily white, but does come in other colors such as blue. Flour corn has a soft, starch-filled kernel that’s easy to grind and is mainly used for baked goods.

Sweet corn is commonly sold at grocery stores and is eaten freshly cooked, frozen, or canned. It is specifically bred to increase sugar content and contains anywhere from 8% to 24% sugar, compared to 4% in other types of corn. It comes in 3 varieties: yellow, white, and bicolor (yellow and white). Baby corn is a tiny ear of sweet corn, picked very young while the cob is still soft, and eaten whole. Corn nuts are made from sweet corn that’s been left to dry on the plant and then fried in oil, causing kernels to expand to double their original size.

Time to Eat
With the secrets of corn revealed, it’s time to savor its wonderful flavor in some of Mary Sue and Susan’s favorite fresh corn recipes.

Corn and Zucchini Fritters
Grilled Mexican Corn on the Cob (Elote)
Grilled Corn on the Cob with Cayenne and Lime
Avocado Corn Relish
Spicy Corn Muffins with Green Chiles

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